by Linda Johnson, ICAN Furlough Volunteer
When I became a furlough volunteer for ICAN, I was an experienced trainer. My techniques had gotten me good results in competitive obedience and I felt pretty confident in my approach. I used a combination of coercive, jerk and correct type, methods and positive reward based training. I was pretty sure this was the best and fastest way to get the message across. After all, I had just had my results confirmed by AKC judges who repeatedly placed my dog in the top four.
When I went through furlough training I learned that ICAN uses a training approach that is totally reward-based. Desirable behaviors are rewarded. Undesirable behaviors are ignored or managed but never “corrected” in the manner I was familiar with. At the end of my training, I reluctantly started using positive training approaches because 1) this was not my dog and 2) if ICAN wanted to take forever getting their dogs trained that was their business.
A lot of watching, listening, reading and furloughing gradually won me over. Totally positive training works. It is effective. Since it does not generate undesirable secondary effects such as anxious, skittish or wary behavior, it is also efficient. I learned to think from the dog’s perspective through reading the dog’s body language and watching for signs of stress. I learned that my training approach had produced high levels of stress in my dog but I had not recognized the signs.
It makes me so happy to see the way ICAN dogs always come running, happily wagging when they hear their name. There is no doubt in their little doggie minds that good things come from their furlougher and handler. My ICAN education has made me a much kinder trainer and, I believe, a kinder person in general. In the same way that I consider how my behavior influences the dog’s experience, I now am much more aware of how the people around me experience my input and feedback. I now have the perspective to treat others as I would want to be treated.
Kindness, service and love, the message of ICAN, reach out through me to people who have no idea they are experiencing the benefits of my ICAN experience. I am so grateful to be a part of ICAN.